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Angel Flight West celebrates milestone with star power

40 years, 100,000 missions

Critically acclaimed actor and general aviation pilot Edward Norton helped Angel Flight West mark a milestone in its mission to help people in need of access to healthcare on October 30.

Edward Norton and Michael Langston smile for a photo on the second leg of Angel Flight West’s 100,000th mission. Photo by Niki Britton.

Angel Flight West, a nonprofit organization that uses its network of volunteer pilots and commercial airline partners to provide free medical transportation, celebrated its 100,000th mission at the Santa Monica Airport in California on October 30. Marking 40 years of service, the group's milestone mission brought cancer survivor and liver transplant recipient Luis Peña, 12, and his mother, Maria Pérez, from their home in San Diego to Santa Monica.

Peña began using Angel Flight’s services when he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 4. He eventually received a liver transplant at UCLA Health and Angel Flight West continues to fly him and his mother Maria for post-transplant appointments. Luis, who refers to the team at Angel Flight West as his family, loves aircraft and flying, and hopes one day to become a pilot himself.

Luis Peña and his mother Maria Pérez arrive at the Santa Monica Municipal Airport with Angel Flight West volunteer pilot Rob Ross. Photo courtesy of McCall Jones/American Aviation News.

The first leg of the flight was completed by long-time AFW volunteer pilot Rob Ross, who flew Peña and his mother from the Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego to the Santa Monica Airport in his Piper Meridian. Ross has been flying as a volunteer pilot for AFW for more than three decades.

The group and its team of volunteers and pilots were joined by special guest and newly minted Angel Flight West volunteer pilot Edward Norton. During a press conference about the mission, Norton, a three-time Academy Award nominee, said, “It’s really cool listening to what everyone here is saying about this organization and it makes me only regret that I didn’t know more about it sooner and I think that the mission of amplifying what you guys are doing and getting more people involved is a really worthy one and I’m really happy to lean into that with you.”

After the event, Norton, along with fellow pilot and friend Michael Langston, flew Peña and his mother back home from Santa Monica to San Diego in Norton’s Cessna U206F that also happens to be AOPA’s 1999 Sweepstakes Cessna 206 Aero SUV. (The story of how Norton came to own and fly the Sweepstakes Cessna 206 will be covered in the January issue of AOPA Pilot.)

Josh Olson, executive director of Angel Flight West, started as a volunteer over 20 years ago and fell in love with the organization and its mission.

"This is a really special occasion, and we stand on the backs of lots of others that have come before us, and we're passing that torch on here today,” Olson said.

“Our big needs are volunteer pilots, awareness, outreach to both health care, aviation communities, and the patients that need us, and funds and so that’s what we’re here today to celebrate so our next 100,000 missions don’t take us 40 years to complete.”

For more information on how to become a volunteer pilot, visit Angel Flight West online.

Luis Peña and his mother Maria Pérez express gratitude for Angel Flight West with Executive Director Josh Olson, during a press conference. Photo courtesy of McCall Jones/American Aviation News.
Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: Aviation Organizations, Public Benefit Flying

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